is retinaldehyde more effective than retinol

Lately, I’ve been cheating on Retinol with its cousin, Retinaldehyde.

I know, I know. But, hear me out before judging me.

I first met Retinol in my mid-20s. It promised to help me fight those pesky crows’ feet that were already starting to creep up around my eyes and keep wrinkles away. What could I do but fall in love?

But retinol isn’t the gentlest lover. Yes, it keeps its promises, but it can be so irritating. Flaking, stinging, redness… you go overboard a little and you’ll regret it.

Retinaldehyde is gentler. It fights wrinkles as well as retinol, but it doesn’t leave you with a red, peeling face. What can I say? It knows how to win a girl’s heart.

Here’s why you should consider making the switch from Retinol to Retinaldehyde, too:

What Is Retinaldehyde?

Retinaldehyde (a.k.a. retinal) and retinol belong to the same family: Retinoids.

Retinoids are all forms of Vitamin A. The pure form is called Retinoid Acid (the active ingredient in Tretinoin), but it’s super harsh on the skin. That’s why scientists have been working on gentler derivatives, like retinol and retinaldehyde.

To work their magic on wrinkles, they both have to be converted to Retinoid Acid. Retinaldehyde converts in one step. Retinol takes two. Like this:

Retinyl Palmitate > Retinol > Retinaldehyde > Retinoic acid

As a rule, the closer a form of Vitamin A is to Retinoid Acid, the better and faster it works.

P.S. Retinaldehyde can be converted to Retinol too.

Related: What’s The Best Form Of Vitamin A For You?

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Can Retinaldehyde Fight Wrinkles?

Yes. Retinaldehyde is a form of Vitamin A and all forms of Vitamin A have some effects on wrinkles. The real question is: how well does Retinaldehyde do the job?

A 1999 French study tested a Retinaldehyde 0.05% cream against an emollient cream without Retinaldehyde. The results were clear. Retinaldehyde make skin thicker and more elastic. 

A study conducted by Dr Boisnic went a step further and researched the effects of a 0.05% Retinaldehyde cream on sun damaged skin. The results were impressive: “in all UVA-exposed and then Retinaldehyde-treated skin specimens, collagen and elastic fibers were restored to the level of nonexposed skin. It has been shown that Retinaldehyde has many of the properties of Tretinoin” in treating photo aging.

Retinaldehyde does this even better than Retinol. According to a 2006 study, 0.05% retinaldehyde is as effective as 0.05% Retinoic Acid (Tretinoin) for the treatment of photoaging. In comparison, retinol is 20 times less potent than Tretinoin and it requires further conversion to Retinoic Acid (in vivo*)”.

*In human skin.

Related: The Complete Guide To Retinol: What It Is, What It Does, And Side Effects

medik8 crystal retinal 6

Can Retinaldeyde Fight Acne, Too?

Vitamin A doesn’t just fights wrinkles. It fights acne, too. Retinaldehyde does the job particularly well. Here’s why:

FYI, retinaldehyde won’t single-handedly get rid of acne. But, it’s a powerful ally in the fight against it.

Related: Adult Acne: Why It Happens And How To Treat It

Can Retinaldehyde Cause Breakouts?

No. Retinaldehyde doesn’t cause breakouts. But it can cause purging. The difference?

Breakouts happen when your pores get clogged. Retinaldehyde doesn’t clog them (FYI, that doesn’t mean another ingredient in the product won’t).

Purging happens when you exfoliate skin at a faster rate. This brings to the surface the breakouts that were brewing underneath.

BUT, while a breakout lasts for as long as you’re using the offending products, purging is over once all the breakouts have come to the fore. It usually takes 4-6 weeks. After that, your skin is CLEAR.

Related: Purging VS Breakouts: How Can You Tell The Difference?

Is Retinaldehyde Safe For Sensitive Skin?

Retinoic Acid, the active form of Vitamin A, is irritating as hell. That’s why it’s available by prescription only.

OTC forms, like Retinaldehyde and Retinol, are gentler. But, as you well know, Retinol can still make your skin flake and peel if you use too much too soon or if your skin is sensitive.

Is Retinaldehyde as irritating, too?

A German study compared the irritation potential of both Retinaldehyde and Retinol and concluded they are both gentler than Retinoic Acid. 

But, they both can still cause some irritation. You may want to start slowly with Retinaldehyde, too.

Is Retinaldehyde Safe During Pregnancy?

Short answer: we don’t know.

Research shows that high doses of Vitamin A cause birth defects in rats. Human studies on this can’t be done (for obvious reasons!!).

Those animal studies are enough for experts to recommend you don’t use any forms of Vitamin A while pregnant or breast-feeding.

It’s true that the risk with retinaldehyde is infinitesimals small. Retinaldehyde isn’t Retinoic Acid. Plus, it’s used in very tiny doses in skincare.

Still, why take the risk?

Related: What Skincare Ingredients Should You Avoid During Pregnancy?

What Are The Best Skincare Products With Retinaldehyde?

And here comes the catch. Retinaldehyde is expensive and very hard to formulate with. That’s why so few brands use it. Heck, even The Ordinary hasn’t been able to bring it to market at an affordable price (yet).

If you want to try retinaldehyde, here are your best options:

Retinaldehyde VS Retinol: Which One Is Better?

Retinaldehyde is more powerful than retinol, yet it’s just as gentle. If you’re looking for a retinoid that goes the extra mile (and you don’t mind paying more for it), make the switch.

Do you use products with Retinaldehyde? Share your faves in the comments below.